A sea captain was found dead and 150 illegal immigrants were rescued off the island of Crete after someone on the vessel on which they were trying to sneak into Europe issued an emergency signal, port officials said yesterday. The Merchant Marine Ministry said that a 22-meter wooden boat sent out a call for help some 40 nautical miles south of Crete late on Sunday night. Officials found on board the illegal immigrants, mostly from Iraq, Egypt and India, between the ages of 18 and 35. The body of a man thought to be the captain was also found, the ministry said. The cause of death is not yet known. The immigrants said that they had set off from the Palestinian port of Rafah some eight hours before being detained, headed for Italy. The three crew members were arrested and the immigrants taken to a community center.